From Colombo we flew to Dubai for a very brief stopover, we arrived late at night, had one full day and were due to leave early the following morning. After breakfast we headed up to the 15th floor to have a look at the rooftop pool, the view across Dubai Creek and out over the city was amazing even though the weather was quite hazy. In the distance we could see the Burj Khalifa Tower, the building that supplanted the Petronas Towers in KL as the highest building in the world, it appeared like a needle stretching high into the sky. We had some admin to do for our trip across Europe sorting out hotel vouchers and train tickets and planned to print them out in the hotels business centre, unfortunately that took much longer than we planned because the hotel Wi-Fi was on the blink and kept dropping out. Eventually, after much frustration we got it all done and turned our attention to Dubai. We asked the hotel concierge to recommend a restaurant where we could get an authentic, Arabic meal; we also mentioned that we would like to see the fountains at the Dubai Mall, he killed two birds with one stone and booked us a table at a restaurant overlooking the fountain, perfect.
We had a bit of time before we needed to leave so we headed back up to the pool for a swim, only to discover that the wind had picked up and it was really quite cold so we scotched that idea and decided to get a taxi into the centre of town to have a look around before dinner. The drive in was amazing, Dubai has been built from nothing in about 20 years, everywhere is shiny and new, incredibly clean and the buildings are generally huge, the ruler has a plan to have the biggest and best of everything. The Dubai Mall is the biggest shopping centre in the world, until a new one opens here shortly; that sounded too daunting to us novice shoppers so we asked the taxi driver to drop us at the much smaller but very flashy Souk Al Bahar, just across the fountain from the Dubai Mall but more accessible. We had a wander around admiring the high-end jewellers, Arabic tailors, carpet shops and perfumers then we went out to see the view of the Burj Khalifa from the terrace. Up close the tall thin building is really quite beautiful, it is covered with lights which flicker on and off making it sparkle as it towers above the rest of the city.
Eventually it was time to find the restaurant and take our seats on the first-floor terrace overlooking the fountains. The waiter took our order and persuaded us away from the set menu instead recommending a selection of hot and cold mezze starters (humus, tabbouleh, stuffed vine leaves, tiny spicy sausages, grilled cheese) and suggesting we share a platter of meat and fish from the grill (lamb cutlets, king prawns, fish fillets and chicken kebabs) as a main course. It was good advice, although it was less food than the set menu offered it was more than we could eat and saved us quite a lot of money too. We both ordered a glass of jellab to drink with our meal, it was a sweet drink made with date syrup and pinenuts, very nice but very sweet. Every 30 minutes, as we enjoyed our meal, the fountains burst in to life offering a display of water jets choreographed to music, like everything else it was on a vast scale but it was very enjoyable and made for a very memorable evening.
Back at the hotel we prepared for another early start, 05.25 pick-up for an 08.40 flight, it was good to know that that was the last time we would have to set an alarm that early. The driver was there bang on time to take us to the airport, and as we drove through the quiet streets of Dubai we realised that the transfer was the last of the arrangements made by Audley, from now on we were on our own…
Our flight left promptly and as we climbed over the desert of the UAE we looked forward to landing in Budapest and being back in Europe for the first time in over seven months.